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Archive for March 13th, 2019

Carl Icahn Further Increases Stake in Caesars

Carl Icahn ups stake in Caesars, wants a role in the selection of a new CEO of the Las Vegas casino and hospitality powerhouse

Days after it became known that New York billionaire investor Carl Icahn has become the largest shareholder of Las Vegas casino giant Caesars Entertainment Corp., the businessman announced that he has upped his stake.

In a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Mr. Icahn said Monday that hedge funds owned by him purchased 15 million shares of the gaming and hospitality company over the weekend for $126.7 million. After the latest purchase, the activist investor now owns 17.75% in Caesars stock.

Mr. Icahn has built his stake in the company within the past two months. Reports about his interest in the Las Vegas casino operator first surfaced in mid-January.

News about the billionaire upping his Caesars stock arrived days after the company’s owners – Apollo Global Management LLC and TPG Capital – halved their own stake. The two private equity giants sold nearly 36.7 million shares of the casino powerhouse. Apollo and TPG bought Caesars in a leveraged buyout back in 2008.

The transaction ballooned the company’s debt to over $25 billion, which it struggled with for seven years before being forced to put its main operating unit into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company emerged from lengthy and complex bankruptcy proceedings in the fall of 2017. It long-term debt currently stands at around $9 billion.

Icahn Presses for Sale, Wants a Say in New CEO Appointment

News about Mr. Icahn’s interest in Caesars immediately prompted comments that the businessman could press the company to sell itself. The businessman quickly confirmed those suggestions, saying in a recent regulatory filing that he believed “the best path forward for Caesars requires a strategic process to sell or merge the company.”

Earlier this month, Caesars has agreed to replace three members of its Board of Directors with people named by Mr. Icahn. Icahn Enterprises CEO Keith Cozza as well as James Nelson and Courtney Mather were appointed by the activist investor.

Now, as Mr. Icahn is the company’s largest shareholder and a quarter of Caesars’ board is loyal to him, the businessman will certainly use his increased influence to press harder for a sale. And it should be noted that he has a long record of successfully pressuring businesses into selling themselves and reaping the financial benefits of such deals.

It was also understood that Mr. Icahn wanted a role in the selection process of a new Caesars CEO. The company’s current chief – Mark Frissora, announced last year plans to step down in February. It later on became known that he would stay with Caesars at least until April.

Mr. Icahn has reportedly proposed Affinity Gaming CEO Anthony Rodio as Mr. Frissora’s replacement. The New York activist investor has also pointed out that he believes a person with experience in the gambling industry should succeed Caesars’ current CEO.

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David “ODB” Baker Takes Down WPT L.A. Poker Classic

Former WSOP gold bracelet winner David “ODB” Baker now boasts a WPT title, as well, after taking down the L.A. Poker Classic

David “ODB” Baker is the new WPT L.A. Poker Classic champion after surviving through the packed six-handed final table of the tournament. The player earned $1,015,000 for being the last man standing in the prestigious tournament.

This year’s edition of the WPT L.A. Poker Classic drew 546 entries who generated a prize pool of $5,169,270. The tournament’s first five days were played at Commerce Casino in the Los Angeles area, just as usual. Those five days were the lead-up to the event’s culmination, the finale that took place at HyperX Esports Arena at Luxor Las Vegas.

The WPT L.A. Poker Classic’s final table was the first televised finale of the current WPT season. Under a recently forged partnership with the brand-new eSports venue, the popular poker series will hold all its televised final tables there.

The six-handed final table of the WPT L.A. Poker Classic kicked off with record-breaking WPT champion Darren Elias as the chip leader. The player was vying for a record fifth title from the series, but it eluded him yesterday.

Elias entered the final day of the tournament with a massive advantage over his remaining opponents, holding more than 9.07 million in chips. His stack at the start of final table action accounted for nearly 41% of all chips in play.

How the Final Day Unfolded

The eventual champion, Baker, was second in chips when cards were thrown in the air to mark the start of the tournament’s final table. The player held 4.76 million at that point. Lithuania’s Matas Cimbolas, the other former WPT champ left in the race for the L.A. Poker Classic title, was third in chips with 4.675 million.

Jean-Claude Moussa with 1.25 million, Steve Yea with 1.205 million, and John Smith with 895,000 were the other three players that made it to the final table of the tournament.

As play progressed, Elias lost his momentum, while Baker was building his stack to eventually emerge as the chip leader and never really look back. The top three stacks at the start of the day were actually the final three players left to fight for the title.

It was Elias who first lost the battle out of the three finalists. The player was eliminated in third place by Cimbolas to collect $473,280 for his efforts. Elias is still the holder of the most WPT titles ever won with four Main Event victories, but a fifth title would have further cemented his lead in that prestigious ranking.

Elias’ departure from the L.A. Poker Classic left it to Cimbolas and Baker to determine the winner. Their two-handed match began with the eventual winner holding 15.375 million in chips to his final opponent’s 6.475 million.

Cimbolas managed to win several big pots over the course of the duel, but Baker never really let his fellow finalist narrow the gap between them too much. The two players battled it out for nearly 40 hands before the final one was dealt.

On a [3s][Ah][10c] flop, Baker checked and Cimbolas bet 300,000. Baker called and the turn delivered [6h]. The soon-to-be-champion checked again, while Cimbolas bet 600,000. Baker took some time before calling. The [2h] appeared on the river and Baker bet 10 million, putting Cimbolas in great danger. Cimbolas gave it some thought before shoving.

Baker flipped [5c][4c] and Cimbolas revealed [10s][5d], hitting the rail in second place. His payday totaled $646,930. The two players shook hands and it was then time for Baker to celebrate and pose for the winner’s picture.

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Valley Forge Casino Resort Readies for Permanent Sportsbook Launch

Valley Forge is set to become the fourth casino in the Philadelphia area to go live with in-person sports betting

Valley Forge Casino Resort is set to open this week its permanent sportsbook in partnership with FanDuel. The King of Prussia-based property obtained a license from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to provide in-person betting services late last year.

With the launch of its permanent betting facility, Valley Forge will become the fourth casino in the Philadelphia area to join the state’s sports gambling market. SugarHouse was the first gambling venue in the region to go live with wagering services last December. Parx Casino followed suit in January, and Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack joined the party later that month.

Valley Forge Casino’s FanDuel Sportsbook is set to open doors on Wednesday, March 13. Former Philadelphia Eagles star Brent Celek will place the ceremonial first bet.

Bettors will be able to wager money on different sports, including professional and collegiate football, baseball, basketball, boxing, soccer, and many more. In fact, the opening of FanDuel Sportsbook at Valley Forge is set to take place just days ahead of this year’s March Madness, which is traditionally one of the most popular events within the annual sports calendar.

Boyd Gaming Corp., the parent company of the King of Prussia-based resort, has previously said that it would also “closely examine” the opportunity to offer online and mobile sports betting in partnership with FanDuel at a later stage.

Pennsylvania regulators are currently only granting licenses for the provision of retail betting services. The Gaming Control Board has indicated that interested operators of online sports gambling services would be awarded their licenses early this summer.

FanDuel Sportsbook – A Peek Into Valley Forge’s Sports Betting Facility

FanDuel, which started off as a daily fantasy sports operator, debuted its sports betting product in New Jersey last summer. The company quickly turned into one of the leaders in that state’s sports betting market and is expected to quickly gain foothold in Pennsylvania’s nascent wagering market, as well.

The permanent sportsbook at Valley Forge occupies 1,800 square feet of space and is located next to the casino’s main entrance. The facility will feature seven teller windows, 29 TV screens, seating for more than 30 people, and two sports tickers, among other things.

Valley Forge’s sportsbook comes as part of the ongoing $40 million renovation at the casino resort. The property has also added 250 slot machines to its existing offering earlier this year. The casino has recently completed renovation work at its event center, adding new floors, ceiling, lavatories, and more.

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Third Version of Germany’s Interstate Treaty on Gambling Surfaces

After two unsuccessful attempts to pass a federal sports betting legislation, Germany launches renewed effort

Germany is making a fresh push to adopt a nationwide sports betting legislation after similar attempts failed in recent years. The third version of the Interstate Treaty on Gambling was unveiled earlier this month and heads of the country’s 16 states were encouraged to act on the piece so that it can be adopted across Germany early next year.

The recently introduced draft legislation will be discussed by the leaders of the 16 states at a special conference scheduled for March 21, 2019. If all German states ratify the proposed Interstate Treaty on Gambling in its current form, the piece of legislation will come into force on January 1, 2020.

Generally speaking, the Treaty allows for interested online and retail sports betting operator to apply for a license and provide their services to German customers in a regulated environment. An important change in the newly presented version of the legislation is the removal of a cap on the maximum licenses that will be issued under the new rules. Previous versions of the Treaty proposed a cap of up to 20 licenses, which was not received well by industry stakeholders and EU authorities.

In fact, the previously proposed cap was what prevented the piece of legislation from being adopted. Its original version was presented back in 2012. The Treaty faced a wave of discontent and legal challenges namely due to the license limitations. A second version of the piece failed to gain traction among the heads of the 16 states in 2017.

The lack of a cap on the number of licenses available is hoped to win lawmakers’ favor this time around.

Timeline for the Implementation of the New Regulatory Framework

As mentioned earlier, the Treaty is expected to take effect on January 1, 2020, if it gains the necessary support. The third version of the piece mandates that the so-called experimental phase for sports betting be extended to June 30, 2021 from June 30, 2019. The experimental period could be extended further to June 30, 2024.

The Interstate Treaty on Gambling is only concerned with the regulation of Germany’s sports betting market. There is no mention of online casino and poker in the legislative piece. Schleswig-Holstein, which has issued licenses for the provision of online sports betting, casino, and poker products under its own liberalized regime, will be able to renew those licenses and run its regime along with the federal framework, it became known.

Under the third version of the Interstate Treaty on Gambling, licensed sports betting operators will be taxed at 5% on their turnover. The taxation provision has been part of all versions of the legislation since its original introduction in 2012. It should be noted that using turnover as a taxation basis has not been a particularly popular approach toward taxing gambling services in most of Europe’s regulated markets. Under Schleswig-Holstein’s regulatory regime, operators pay a 20% tax on their annual revenues.

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